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An Open Letter

Vukovar, 12 October 1991


We have deliberated over whether to write this letter for a long time. But after all the events that have occurred within the past few days, we have brought our decision and we would like you to read it publicly, instead of the evening report from our front.

Dear people of Vukovar and Borovo Naselje!

This letter is not addressed to you who find yourselves on the left bank of the river Drava, because we know for certain what you think about this war and whose side you are on; this letter is addressed to you, our compatriots, who are now all over Croatia listening to this open letter tonight.

We have been resisting vicious attacks launched on us by Chetniks and the Yugoslav Army for four full months, even though they are stronger in numbers and technology. They have been defeated on many occasions as they are not aware that they lack something that we cherish and which gives us the strength to persevere and win. They lack heart, because, unlike us, they are not fighting for something that is theirs; and what hurts most is that sometimes there is no mention of us on prime-time news, although other places are mentioned. Whether two shots were fired at them, or similar information; we mean no disrespect, nor do we wish to underestimate someone else’s misfortune in this war, but we would like you to know that here no count is kept any longer, as grenades do not fall in the dozens, nor in the hundreds, but in the thousands.

But, let me return to why I am writing this letter to you.

Dear compatriots, after the last elections you stood in the front rows when the victory of democracy was celebrated, you were at the front of the line when lamb and oxen were being roasted, but where are you now? This land needs you even more than it did. Word has it that you are spending your time in cafés in Zagreb and in cafés and hotels along the Adriatic coast. And as you unconcernedly drink your morning coffee, we have already been plagued by a hundred shells aimed at us from a variety of enemy weaponry. Perhaps you are uninformed and do not know that wonderful young men and true heroes have fallen and they have fallen so that we and you may enjoy freedom tomorrow. 

It is difficult to accept the bitter truth, but neither Blago, nor Zilet, nor Grga, nor Vinko, nor Gudelja, nor Vidos, nor Mandic, or Krivic, and who knows how many other heroes like them, will ever walk among us again. And what about you? Will you have the courage and boldness to come to our free cities one day, to walk among us, among their relatives and friends, and look us in the eyes? Know then that this is the last possible moment for you to come to your city and help us defend it and cleanse it of invaders. As, otherwise, there will no longer be a place for you to return to.

Come and join us in our struggle. Because do not think that we will look after your flats, feed your fish, and die, so that you may return happily when it is all over forever. 

Signed by the defenders
of Vukovar and Borovo Naselje


Siniša Glavašević


Vukovar, 16 October 1991


Vukovar is bleeding — and Croatia is negotiating. However, all deadlines for switching sides are past. Croatia must go to war in Vukovar. Reporting on the bloodshed and destruction, on the illnesses and well-being of 35,000 people in this area whose lives are at stake are the editor-in-chief Josip Esterajher and the editor of Croatian Radio Vukovar, Siniša Glavašević. 

For over two weeks now Vukovar and its 35,000 citizens have been waiting to receive mercy and forgiveness from Zagreb for something for which they are not to blame. No single city in Croatia has given more for Croatia’s independence, no single city has defended such a great piece of Croatian soil with so few soldiers, and still this does not seem to be enough.  

At this very moment over seventy tanks are rolling into Vukovar. And Vukovar is bleeding together with its heroism, with Blago Zadro, a man whom Mr Tudjman decorated personally.

All those whom the commander of the Croatian Armed Forces for Vukovar did not want to name, although Mr Tudjman stated he should, are also dying.

However, the list has thirty-five thousand names and surnames on it.

Vukovar shall not be another Dalj. Vukovar will not and cannot accept that it should be sacrificed, because it has been a free and royal city for two years longer than Zagreb. There are an additional forty-six severely injured, and the list of deceased is longer than it was before. All fronts are under siege.

And this is why Vukovar offers Croatia, Europe and the world the following — either the Croatian authorities need to do their utmost for a ceasefire to be instated, or they need to send the necessary efficacious military backup, or they need to evacuate all the civilian inhabitants from this region.

There is another possibility, and that is the complete and final destruction of the city and the massacre of its inhabitants, along with two hundred and fifty severely wounded.

However, no one here sees this as a possibility. The heroes of this city are still needed for a while yet, so that they may be witnesses of this war.

Thank you Zagreb!

Don’t edit this out…


Siniša Glavašević


Vukovar, 17 October 1991


First morning report on the war in Vukovar for Croatian Radio. Siniša Glavašević reporting.

Grenades and mortar shells are falling on the city again; promises have been broken again. Mr Raseta intentionally forgets that he also commands Chetniks. Admissions were made last night when men strange in appearance and with long beards were arrested in Luzac.

It all seemed difficult to believe, but it was like on film. Evidence continued to be provided throughout the night. Hrcan Stevan, born 26 July 1966 in Pancevo, reservist, tank loader. After his arrest, he explained many things. We bring an extract from the minutes taken. “I was in a T-55 tank. My unit, which is the size of a battalion, headed out from Dalj and through Bobota and the Dergaj Woods. But, close to the woods two of our tanks were destroyed."

The detainee further states that eleven tanks and four transporters from the I Armoured Mechanised Infantry Battalion took part in this operation. He admits that there are an indeterminate number of mortars and reservists in the Dergaj Woods. He also named his commanding officer. Captain, first class, commander of the I Armoured Mechanised Infantry Battalion, Mr Petar Lelovic. The tank crews were not keen on the assignment when they heard that they were going as far as Bobota, where they would, in the words of the commander, probably engage in battle against Ustashi.

Although the prisoner had already refused to fight once before in Dalj, he had been mobilized again ten days before his twenty-fifth birthday. During the night, a further four hundred projectiles fell on the city from Backa, from the direction of the Dergaj Woods, and from the Chetnik village Petrova Gora.

At the same time, action was taken against the village Luzac. After erecting a pontoon bridge, a total of eleven tanks and four transporters planned to enter Vukovar. Four tanks and one transporter were destroyed. The remaining tanks and transporters continue to ply the area firing.

Four tanks attempted to enter Vukovar at Mitnica. They were unsuccessful and fell back. A further two tanks and two transporters had the same intention at Sajmiste. One tank was destroyed, a transporter was damaged, and the rest fell back.

A pontoon bridge was also built on the Trpinjska Road, but they were unable to carry out their plan. Warring in Vukovar, which went on into the night, meant that tired defenders had to invest even greater efforts. Still, around two hundred enemy soldiers were once again put out of action.

At Croatian Armed Forces HQ for Vukovar they were astounded at how many volunteers were willing to give their lives.

As yet, we have not received reports on wounded and dead on our side. The political struggle and dramatic appeals sent out by the city fathers to the whole of Croatia and Europe so far remain unanswered. But they should be answered. Because all those still alive, as well as the heroes of Vukovar are in dire need of either rest or death; aside from the defenders, there are a further 35,000 people in this district.

A tight ring is gradually being pulled around Vukovar.

Was the appeal loud enough?


Vukovar, 17 October 1991


Siniše Glavašević reporting from Vukovar for Croatian Radio.

Half an hour before negotiations started, the Vukovar Hospital was assailed by rockets fired from a multiple rocket launcher from the direction of Backa.

Just as a reminder: there are 229 severely wounded persons and seven newly-born babies in this facility.  As of last night, the hospital has been confronted by a new threat — an epidemic.

This is the third open attack on a medical facility in Vukovar within the last five days. Immediately before negotiations started, just under an hour and a half ago, the chief administrator at the Medical Centre in Vukovar, Ms Vesna Bosanac, lodged a loud complaint with the Minister of Health, Mr Andrija Hebrang, because all norms known to civilisation had been breached by the deployment of the multiple rocket launchersf rom Backa. In addition, this undermines the possibility of the Yugoslav Army defending its morality, to whom Mr Raseta is partial, when he states that regular military forces are not taking part in the massacre of Vukovar and its 35,000 inhabitants.

New prisoners apprehended last night between 22.00 and 2400 hours while attempting to gain access to the city with tanks and the support of a large number of infantry are testimony enough as to what is happening.

A member of one of the tank crews, Hrcan Stevan from Pancevo, has admitted much that Mr Raseta has denied.

At the same time, the village of Luzac finds itself under heavy tank and infantry fire. The Croatian defence is finding it difficult to hold out and can, unfortunately, not claim that time is on Vukovar’s side.

However, after discussions with the recently appointed commander of Croatian Forces for Vukovar, we have been informed that this alarming state does not mean that Vukovar will fall.

A large majority of people here still believe that Zagreb will not allow this to happen…


City Museum of Vukovar in Eltz's castle

9 November 1991


Jastreb, Commander of the Croatian Defence in Vukovar, has lifted the embargo on information, but the defence of Vukovar is about to fold.  Siniše Glavašević reporting for Croatian Radio.

The third day since the implementation of the blockade on information ended tonight at midnight and was a last attempt by the Vukovar command to save the city from disinformation and policies which have been wrongly implemented as a result of which Vukovar has had to pay the highest dues in Croatia. Distrust, misunderstandings, or neglect have all contributed to the fact that Vukovar no longer has streets, or squares, or houses.

There are over two thousand children and fifteen thousand inhabitants, and there are also wounded and tired defenders, who are embittered by betrayal after having defended the city for 78 days with superhuman strength in order to preserve them ciity until the promised help arrives.

At this moment, the ruins of the hospital in Vukovar, which has been assailed by grenades and mortar and rockets, shelters four hundred and fifty wounded.

Medical teams do what they can to localise infection, which has started, developing as a result of the difficult conditions. Due to operations carried out over an extended period of time, they are burdened by the lack of other vital medication and sanitary supplies. The head of transfusion, Dr Edin Zujovic, was to speak about this for HTV tonight.

The city, which up until now symbolised Croatia in the eyes of the world, is almost non-existent. 

The authors of the tragedy that is being enacted are definitely identifiable, and the entire world knows who they are. The goal of the enemy’s offensive is Vukovar, and they have shaken the city for around ten days. Attacks continued this morning as heavy artillery fired from a distance fell on the city, and then at 10.00 hours the Croatian line of defence was attacked at Luπac
and 1 Svibnja Street. At these points, a combined infantry and machinery attack was launched, and then around noon a socalled “net” was dropped from a plane onto Borovo Naselje.

It is difficult to enumerate all the crimes committed by the occupiers only today. But by highlighting that they attacked the most densely populated part of the city — Olajnica, where there are around three thousand people at the moment, and which is under heavy fire, and the hospital and numerous shelters, where there is no reason for action to be taken, then everything
becomes clear. 

If Vukovar falls, and if its citizens die in the massacre, which is clearly the enemy’s plan, then the culprit for this should first be sought in Zagreb, and then further afield, because they still have not supplied replies to the numerous messages sent out.


9 November 1991


For each street from 1 Svibnja Street onwards fierce and bloody battles are being fought. Siniše Glavašević reporting for the Chronicle of the Day.

The wounded defenders are still holding out, but the burning question is for how long. Attacks are still not letting up.  Incendiary bombs have been dropped several times on the city and have caused two fires at the hospital. Both defenders and civilians are greatly embittered by the fact that Croatia has so gallantly left them to the mercy of Greater Serbian desires.

Under constant fire from a variety of missiles and rockets, there is no longer place for illusions. Despite all the promises made, both defenders and civilians are being slaughtered mercilessly.

The four hundred and fifty wounded patients being treated at the hospital under conditions that Europe has long forgotten can no longer wait for decisions to be made and meetings to be held.

Even if military support were in the city, it might still be too late. Because the enemy has positioned itself favourably and is razing everything that stands before it to the ground. In an attempt to save the ruined city and stop disinformation and lies that have taken up so much space and airing time in certain national media from spreading among the civilian population, Jastreb, the commander for the defence of Vukovar has declared an embargo on all information. This, however, has not been taken as a serious call for concrete action to be taken, so that  enemy forces have strengthened in the interim, and the promised help mentioned earlier has, to this day, not arrived.

Over three hundred projectiles landed on the hospital within the last three days, destroying all available transportation needed to transfer wounded from the front to the hospital, as well as putting a number of operating theatres out of commission, etc. 

There is no more blood type O, and Croatia has made new promises to help Vukovar. But the situation on the front does not allow for any more chances.

Due to fatigue and loss of defenders, the first line of defence at the village Luzac and in 1 Svibnja Street has been breached, which has enabled the enemy to position itself more favourably in order to strike Olajnica, the most densely inhabited part of the city, and other vital arteries of the city, with heavy artillery.

Bluntly put, appeals sent to Zagreb long ago have not been taken seriously. Not even members of Vukovar Clubs, who walk around Croatia asking for donations and then disappear, have taken the appeals seriously.

Vukovar has recently been designated the symbol of Croatian defence. The political heads have even declared it a Hero City, but this was only a convulsion that lasted for the duration of its expectation that Croatia would not abandon it, that it would take it into its fold, even though it was mortally wounded.

In vain, as 78 days have passed, and, after all that has been said, defenders die in the knowledge that their own political head has betrayed them. Still, one has to think ahead. Threats have been made to massacre the civilian population, so the defenders continue to hope that the public, both at home and abroad, will react quickly in order that the worst may be avoided.

Croats, not only in Croatia, but in the whole world, should be losing sleep until the fifteen thousand people and two thousand children are saved from this hell. This is the holy duty placed upon their conscience by this city.

To all Croats, and all those who hear us, this is Siniše Glavašević reporting from the ruins of Vukovar.


House in Vukovar after Occupation

15 November 1991


To the disgrace of the whole of Croatia, the borders of the free city of Vukovar are shrinking, reports Siniše Glavašević

While the civilian population is losing its sense of time, because they cannot discern day from night in the shelters, the Croatian line of defence is doing its utmost to prevent the enemy from advancing.

Still, there are over one thousand dead and a large number of people whose whereabouts remain unknown, all of which will mar the reputation of the Croatia that stood by for 85 days without taking concrete and effective measures to aid the greatest symbol of its defence and pride.

At this moment, street fights are going on at the Borovo Naselje in Slavonska Street, at Sajmiste in Masarykova Street and Preradoviceva Street, whilst the hinterland of Borovo Naselje, near the silos is being hit by heavy artillery fire from a distance.

If twelve wounded is a large number for the rest of Croatia, for Vukovar it might even be considered acceptable in view of the general state of defence here.

The intensity of the destructive force of projectiles that are raining down on the city has intensified, so that over seventy have fallen on the city within the last hour.

After the statement given by the President of the Republic of Croatia, Mr Franjo Tudjman, there is still hope that help will arrive, but also fear that it may come too late, as the ruins of the hospital building are insufficient for coping with the demands of the battlefield.

There have been an increased number of telephone calls to the political heads of state, warning them repeatedly about what might happen and what is already happening to the wounded.  Infection has already taken its toll, and the need for sanitary supplies is growing.

At the same time, the enemy is using all forbidden means in a desire to take the city which no longer exists. They have been using incendiary bombs and chemical warfare for days, and the atrocities wreaked on prisoners, especially civilians, have been occurring over a longer period of time. This is why it is adamant that Croatia immediately take action on its easternmost barricade, so that Vukovar may see some light, even if only from the direction of Vinkovci.

For almost three months now, appeals and indignant anger have been simultaneously sent out from Vukovar; we have done our utmost so that Croatia and the world may gain a true picture of what is happening here, so that unnecessary bloodshed might be avoided, but there is still no practical solution on the horizon.

Perhaps the next hours will be better for the fifteen thousand surviving mothers, old people, the sick and infirm.


18 November 1991


There is no reason to wait for evacuation, as all that remains in Vukovar are civilians in shelters.  Siniše Glavašević reporting for the Chronicle of the Day

The marathon negotiations initiated yesterday which have had their alternating moments of success and failure are slowly drawing to a close to the great joy of fifteen thousand surviving adults and two thousand children.

The European Peace Mission has not entered the city, although this was expected of them, but, judging by recent phone calls with Mr Budisa, Mr Granic and Mr Tus, there is a realistic chance that evacuation will start tomorrow in the presence of the peacekeepers.

However, one should not forget earlier attempts at realising certain agreements, which were far more complex. Therefore, plagued by misgivings, we wait with mixed emotions for the further development of events and hope that we will see the convoy soon. 

The picture of Vukovar at 22.00 hours on the 87th day will remain in the memories of those who witnessed it all for a long time to come.

Entire series of endless spectral scenes and the smell of burning.

Underfoot, the remains of bodies, building material, glass, debris, and an eerie silence. 

At the same time, doctors at the hospital in Vukovar are facing grave difficulties. A large number of wounded, three hundred of whom are severely injured, and a further four hundred who are slightly more mobile, numerous civilians, who found shelter here, and terrible cases of wounding, like that of a five and-a-half-month-old baby, on whom Dr Tomislav Vlahovic operated this afternoon. Shrapnel had severely damaged the baby’s hip and thigh. A similar case is a four-year-old girl whose shoulder was crushed by a grenade.

We recently informed you on the death of a pregnant mother and her unborn baby. Civilisation cannot cope with the burden of cases such as these. Gas gangrene, so everyone here hopes, will never again sway over medicine.

I have just received information on the outcome of negotiations. The convoy will head out tomorrow at 10.00 hours and will be taking 600 patients. It will be travelling from the hospital in Vukovar, through Priljevo, Luzac, Bogdanovci, Marinci, Zidine and on to Nustar. 

The civilian shelter at Borovo Naselje will also be contacted tomorrow, where there are around two hundred wounded and they will join the evacuation within the next days.

Let us hope that Vukovar’s agonies are over.



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